Cardinal Pell will stand trial on sexual offence charge, court rules

Cardinal Pell will stand trial on sexual offence charge, court rules

Cardinal George Pell will stand trial for at least three historical sexual offence charges, becoming the most senior member of the Catholic Church to ever face court for such allegations.

Cardinal George Pell has been committed to stand trial on multiple historical sexual offence charges, but the most serious charges have been thrown out. Magistrate Belinda Wallington said there was no evidence the two accusers had colluded in their evidence.

Asked to enter a plea, Cardinal Pell sat seated in a packed Melbourne Magistrates Court but said in a loud, clear voice: "Not guilty".

He has strenuously denied the accusations.

Pell, who took leave from his position as Vatican treasurer to fight the charges, faced a four week-long pre-trial committal hearing in March to determine if he will stand trial.

The exact details and nature of the allegations have not been made public, other than they involve "multiple complainants".

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The committal hearing over 4 weeks - which was closed to the public and media for the first 10 days - heard witness statements and cross-examinations by Pell's lawyers.

A large police presence was on hand at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court for the arrival of Cardinal Pell.

If Pell - a top advisor to Pope Francis - is committed to stand trial, he will then face a directions hearing at a later time before a date is set for the trial.

But crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC said the defence attack on the complainants' credibility amounted to nothing more than "a conflict in the evidence", which was up to a jury to decide.

The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, declined to make any comment on the decision.

"I think issues of credibility and reliability are matters for a jury except where you get to a point where the credibility is effectively annihilated", she said.

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